Evicted villagers must be compensated

Government must heed calls for compensation by the Manzou villagers from Mazowe district who were forcibly removed from a farm forcibly occupied by President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

She intends to turn the land into a wildlife sanctuary. Clearly acting on instructions from powerful politicians, police early this year demolished the villagers’ houses and drove them out. In the process, the residents lost property worth thousands of dollars.

They had made modest investments to acquire those properties, which went up in smoke at the stroke of a matchstick. Now, the villagers are insisting that they must be compensated for the losses that were a result of Grace’s selfish moves to put animals ahead of human beings for profit.

Technically, the police are liable for the losses that the Manzou villagers suffered. They used strong-arm tactics to evict defenceless and innocent people. Torching the houses and property belonging to the settlers was uncalled for. If there were legitimate reasons to evict them, surely the police and other government agencies could have found better methods of doing so.

What makes matters worse is that the police action was illegal as it was not backed by any acceptable constitutional or statutory orders to remove the villagers. It seems the police had become accustomed to acting willy-nilly at the behest of politicians and members of the executive. Thanks to the new constitution, individuals or groups of people can now sue specific police officers whenever they are convinced that their rights have been violated.

As the Manzou villagers fight their war to regain what they lost through ill-advised and heavy handed action we call on civil rights groups to exert more pressure on the police and government. This is important because it will send a clear signal to the authorities that the days of violating poor people’s rights without impunity are over.

Their lobby will also help ensure that government agencies respect the constitution. We hail the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for the work it has done so far and hope that other human rights defenders will step in at the practical level. Intervention must go beyond issuing press statements.

As it stands, the Manzou people are not the only ones who have suffered at the hands of a trigger happy police. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has over the decades turned into a political agency to fight on behalf of Zanu (PF) politicians. Many Zimbabweans have lost limbs, property and even their lives due to police excesses.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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